Wyrmwood Records, May 2015
Take Pagan Altar, Cough, Pylon, Count Raven and Bathory and send them to Ohio, USA and this might be what you’d get. Another solo project from Sean Deth, the man behind Lucian The Wolfbearer and others, Witchhelm play solid, sinister riff-based doom metal that is unhurried, implacable and – sometimes – a little too straightforward.
With a name inspired by the video game Skyrim, and based around occult and horror themes, Witchhelm concoct some potent droning hymns of misery. The weird vocals will haunt your dreams for a while, the rumbling bass seems made of molten concrete and the guitars reach for the sewers as well as the skies, with acoustic interludes helping to create a broader atmosphere.
Powerful tracks such as ‘Spellbinder’ and ‘Phooka’ provide plenty of magical moments, but across the whole of the album there is perhaps not enough variety or versatility to make a consistently engaging impression. Perhaps that is because the echoing vocal effect becomes slightly predictable as the album progresses, or maybe it is because it is sometimes difficult to feel much passion shine through the neatly-managed guitar playing.
Whatever the reason, the debut album from Witchhelm only manages to conjure its dark spell intermittently – capturing your imagination in fits and starts even if it might not wholly win your heart.